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What is Japanese Coffee Jelly?
Coffee Jelly (コーヒーゼリー) or “kōhii zerii” as it’s known in Japanese, is a refreshing and satisfying dessert made using strong black coffee that has been sweetened with sugar and then solidified using a setting agent such as gelatine, agar agar or kanten.
Jelly desserts are extremely popular in Japan, especially in hotter months when something light, cold and refreshing is the perfect way to tackle the Japanese summer heat and humidity.
Ingredients & Substitution Ideas
- Setting agent: You can make this recipe with gelatine, kanten or agar agar (affiliate) depending on accessibility and dietary needs, I’ve provided instructions how to use each of these in the post. I personally use the powdered versions since they make it easier to control the firmness of the jelly. Using kanten or agar agar will make the dish suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
- Coffee: Opt for a high quality instant espresso or coffee powder for best results. If you choose to use espresso shots from a coffee machine, make sure to reduce the water amount to keep the recipe ratio the same.
- Sugar: I use white caster or granulated sugar, but you can customize the recipe by using your favorite kind of sugar.
- Toppings: Coffee Jelly is typically topped with whipped cream. I also like to add a few chopped nuts (walnuts or almonds) for added texture, and a drizzle of syrup for added flavor (my favorite is Monin’s hazelnut syrup).
Curious about the exact brands and products that bring my recipes to life? Discover the brands and ingredients behind my recipes at the Sudachi Amazon Storefront. Explore my handpicked pantry essentials and find your next kitchen favorites!Jump to Full Recipe Measurements
Gelatine VS Katen VS Agar Agar: Pros & Cons
In order to make jelly, you will need to use a setting agent. I’ve included how to make this recipe with gelatine, kanten and agar agar, but what are the differences?
Gelatine is a translucent and flavorless coagulant made from the collagen of animal parts. It’s easy to use and can be simply mixed into hot liquid to create jelly desserts. A few cons include setting time (takes at least 3-4 hours) and not suitable for plant-based diets.
Kanten (寒天) is a plant-based setting agent made from type of red seaweed called gelidiales or tengusa in Japanese. It needs to be boiled for several minutes to activate the setting quality and cannot be simply dissolved like gelatine. Jelly made with kanten sets very fast (within 1 hour) even at room temperature, it is also firmer and not completely translucent, which can make it look a little cloudy. Although kanten is sometimes translated as “agar agar”, they are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably.
Finally, Agar Agar is a general term used for seaweed-based setting agents, making it plant-based. Agar Agar was designed to mimic gelatine, resulting in a clear and jiggly jelly without the use of animal parts. Like Kanten, it needs to be boiled on the stove for it to turn into jelly. You could say that agar agar is the best of both worlds, however they vary from brand to brand so you need to be more careful about the water ratio. I recommend using an Agar Agar that can be a 1:1 substitute for gelatine when following this recipe.
See the chart below for the qualities, pros and cons of each setting agent.
|Collagen from bones and tendons of cows or pigs.
|Red algae (tengusa/gelidiales)
|A mixture of algaes including red seaweed. (Varies by brand).
|Suitable for Vegetarians/Vegans
|Ease of Use
|Very Easy: Dissolve in hot liquid.
|Easy: Boil for 5 minutes.
|Easy: Boil for time stated on packaging (might vary).
|Soft and jiggly
|Firm, doesn’t jiggle
|Medium, a little jiggle.
|A little cloudy
|4 hours minimum refrigeration
|1 hour room temperature
|1 hour room temperature
Visual Walkthrough & Tips
Here are my step-by-step instructions for how to make Japanese-style Coffee Jelly at home. For ingredient quantities and simplified instructions, scroll down for the Printable Recipe Card below.
Take a bowl and add about one-third of the water (cold). Measure out the gelatine powder, sprinkle it over the top of the water and mix. Avoid putting the gelatine powder in the bowl first, since pouring water over gelatine can make it lumpy. Using cold water will ensure the gelatine hydrates evenly.
Leave to bloom for 5 minutes.
Once bloomed, it should look have expanded and absorbed some of the water.
Boil the rest of the water and pour it into a heatproof jug. Pour in the bloomed gelatine and mix until completely dissolved.
Next, add the sugar.
I add sugar first so that I can easily see when it has dissolved, but you can add the sugar and coffee powder at the same time if you prefer.
Mix until completely dissolved and scoop off any foam that forms at the top.
Pour into molds or serving cups. If you want to cut it into cubes, pour it into a lunchbox lined with plastic wrap so that it’s easy to remove later.
Cool to room temperature and then chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or until set.
Once set, cut into cubes if necessary, and serve with whipped cream or your choice of toppings.
Enjoy!Jump to Full Recipe Measurements
Kanten/Agar Agar Method
Add the sugar and kanten or agar agar to a bowl and mix until evenly distributed.
Add cold water to a saucepan and sprinkle in the sugar and kanten/agar mixture. Mix and then place the pan on the stove over a medium heat.
Bring to boil and allow the mixture to bubble for 5 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure none of the mixture is burning or sticking at the bottom.
After 5 minutes of boiling, remove from the heat.
Add the coffee and mix gently until dissolved. Avoid mixing too vigorously as this can cause air bubbles and foam.
Scoop any excess foam with a spoon.
Transfer to molds or serving cups and leave to cool. Once it reaches room temperature, chill in the refrigerator.
Coffee Jelly made with kanten or agar will be ready in 1 hour.
Serve with your choice of toppings and enjoy!
Topping & Serving Ideas
Coffee Jelly can be enjoyed in various ways, try out some of these ideas!
- With whipped or heavy cream
- With coconut cream
- With ice cream
- Cut into cubes and added to drinks (iced coffee, milkshakes etc)
How to Store
Jelly made with gelatine can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge for about 5-7 days. The storage life for kanten or agar jellies is less as its prone to bacterial growth and should be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and consumed within 3 days.
Kanten is a setting agent made with red algae (gelidiales) and has a firm texture once set. Agar was created to mimic the texture of gelatine as is made from various types of algae, including the same red algae that is used to make kanten. Jellies made with agar have a softer, more gelatine-like texture.
When making coffee jelly with gelatine, almost any kind of coffee can be used since the gelatine powder can simply be dissolved in the hot coffee. Kanten or agar need to be boiled to activate their setting properties, and boiling already-made coffee can affect the taste. For this reason, it is better to boil the kanten/agar before adding the coffee, making instant coffee, instant espresso or espresso shots more suitable.
I hope you enjoy this Coffee Jelly recipe! If you try it out, I’d really appreciate it if you could spare a moment to let me know what you thought by giving a review and star rating in the comments below. It’s also helpful to share any adjustments you made to the recipe with our other readers. Thank you!
More Dessert Recipes
Want more inspiration? Explore my Japanese Dessert Roundup Post for a carefully selected collection of tasty recipe ideas to spark your next tea party!
Japanese Coffee Jelly
Setting agent (choose 1)
- 15 g gelatin powder or
- 15 g agar agar powder or
- 2 g Japanese kanten powder (each sachet is usually 4g)
- 500 ml water
- 2 tbsp instant espresso see post for other coffee options
- 2-3 tbsp sugar adjust sweetness to your liking
- heavy cream (whipped, pouring or ice cream) optional
- flavored syrup (vanilla, hazelnut or caramel) optional
- chopped walnuts, mint leaves or coffee beans optional
- Take a small bowl and 200ml cold water. Sprinkle in 15 g gelatin powder, mix and leave to bloom for 5-10 minutes.
- Once the gelatine has bloomed, boil water and pour 300ml into a heatproof jug. Pour the gelatine in and mix until dissolved.
- Add 2-3 tbsp sugar and 2 tbsp instant espresso. Mix until dissolved and scoop out any foam that forms at the top.
- Pour into a mold and let it cool to room temperature before placing it in the fridge to set fully. This will take approximately 4 hours.
- Once set, cut into cubes (or serve in cups) and add heavy cream and your choice of toppings.
Kanten or Agar Agar
- Pour 2-3 tbsp sugar and 2 g Japanese kanten powder (or 15 g agar agar powder) into a bowl and mix thoroughly.
- Pour 500 ml water into a saucepan, add the kanten and sugar, and mix thoroughly.
- Transfer the pan to the stove and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally and then remove from the heat.
- Leave to cool for a few minutes and the add 2 tbsp instant espresso. Use a spatula to mix until dissolved, mix gently to avoid creating too much foam.
- Scoop out any foam with a spoon.
- Pour into molds or serving cups and cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge to set fully. This will take approximately 1 hour.
- Once set, cut into cubes or serve straight from a cup with your choice of toppings. Enjoy!